The Solution

This is the key to harmonizing Jesus with Moses and Paul. Jesus was simply exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He was not laying down a law that forbids any remarriage. If He was, He was contradicting Moses and Paul, and creating a confusing mess for millions of divorced and millions of remarried people. If Jesus was laying down a law of remarriage, then what should we tell those who have been divorced and remarried before they heard about Jesus’ law? Shall we tell them that they are living in adulterous relationships, and, knowing that the Bible warns that no adulterers will inherit God’s kingdom (see 1 Cor. 6:9-10), instruct them to divorce again? But doesn’t God hate divorce?

Shall we tell them to cease having sex with their spouses until their former spouses die to thus avoid regularly committing adultery? But does not Paul forbid married couples from withholding sex from each other? And would not such a recommendation lead to sexual temptations and even foster desires for ex-spouses to die?

Shall we tell such people to divorce their current spouses and remarry their original spouses (as advocated by some), something that was forbidden under Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4?

And what about divorced people who have not been remarried? If they are only permitted to remarry if their former spouse committed some immorality, who will take it upon himself to determine if an immorality was actually committed? In order to remarry, will some people be required to prove that their former spouse was only guilty of lust, while others will need to bring forth witnesses to their former spouses’ affairs?

As I asked earlier, what about cases where a former spouse committed adultery due in part to being married to a person who withheld sex? Is it is fair that the person who withheld sex be permitted to remarry while the person who committed adultery not be permitted to be remarried?

What about the person who committed fornication prior to marriage? Is not his or her fornication an unfaithful act towards a future spouse? Would not that person’s sin be equivalent to adultery had he or his sexual partner been married at the time of their sin? Why then is that person permitted to marry?

What about two people who live together, unmarried, who then “break up.” Why are they permitted to marry someone else after their breakup, just because they weren’t officially married? How are they different than those who divorce and remarry?

What about the fact that “old things pass away” and “all things become new” when a person becomes a Christian (see 2 Cor. 5:17)? Does that really mean every sin committed except the sin of illegitimate divorce?

All of these and many more questions[1] could be asked that are strong reasons to think that Jesus was not laying down a new law concerning remarriage. Certainly Jesus was intelligent enough to realize the ramifications of His new law of remarriage if that is what it was. That in itself is enough to tell us that He was only exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees—lustful, religious, hypocritical men who were divorcing their wives for “any cause” and remarrying.

Surely the reason Jesus said they were “committing adultery” rather than simply saying that what they were doing was wrong is because He wanted them to see that divorce for any cause and subsequent remarriage is really no different than adultery, something they claimed to never do. Are we to conclude that the only thing Jesus was concerned about was the sexual aspect of a remarriage, and that He would approve of remarriage as long as there was abstinence from sex? Obviously not. So let us not make Him say what He never meant.

[1] For example, consider the comments of one divorced pastor who found himself cut off from the body of Christ when he remarried. He said, “It would have been better if I had murdered my wife than divorced her. If I had murdered her, I could have repented, received forgiveness, lawfully remarried, and continued in my ministry.”